I’ve been thinking about rules. Of course, Singapore has quite a few rules. But as we headed to Malaysia by bus, I began to think about when we encounter lots of rules, it becomes difficult to understand which ones are bendable or breakable, and that seems important.
We began the ‘backpacking’ part of our journey in Singapore. We booked a ‘luxury’ bus to Malacca, a historic ‘small’ town in southern Malaysia. My first impression of not understanding the rules came quickly. The taxi driver dropped us and our luggage off on what looked like the side of the street downtown Singapore. As we looked around, we found that we were indeed next to a bus. However, upon asking if this was the bus we were to take to Malacca, we were abruptly answered, “You wait.” So, we found two other young ladies with backpacks sitting on the lawn next to the bus on the side of the street, and decided to sit down next to them to wait, as instructed. It was the bus to Malacca, Malaysia, and we did get on. The seats were quite comfortable, but at this point in our journey, it didn’t seem luxurious.
Our next encounter with rules came as we wondered whether or not to open our snacks and water. There was a large sign at the front of the bus telling us “No Food. No Drink.” But, our research had recommended that we bring food and drink for the 4 hour ride. Other passengers broke out their biscuits and water, so we did too. We found a ‘breakable’ rule.
As we left Singapore and crossed into Malaysia, the bus stopped at immigration. We wondered whether we were meant to take our luggage off of the bus. We asked again, and again, were rather abruptly told, “Follow your friends!”. So we did….with our luggage. Guess that was the rule because as we followed the fellow backpackers, the departure cards for Singapore in our passports were taken, and our passports were stamped with Malaysian visas.
Our hotel in Malacca had a lovely small swimming pool on the roof. One of our favorite times to swim is in the rain, and it poured, so of course, we went swimming. Within 30 minutes, we were told (kindly, this time) that we couldn’t swim in the rain. Must have been another rule (yes, I know about lightening).
It seemed difficult for both of us in Malacca to figure out the rules. We seemed to both be looking for some space to be “us” and have time within our own ‘rules’.
This is important. I thought about the rules we have in our family…our little two person family and larger family. This is an easy space to live in because we understand the rules. We also don’t have many “Do This Properly and Don’t Do This” type of rules. (Thanks, mom and dad).
I began to think about religious rules. Much of Malaysia is Muslim, that has often seemed to me to be a religion with many rules. Sometimes, we could hear the Call to Prayer which was calming and beautiful. We stopped whatever we were doing when we heard it and listened. It did spark many conversations about rules. What did it mean to pray? Why wear head coverings?
It seems that the fewer the rules, the easier it is to live. The Call to Prayer was beautiful, but beauty of religion gets lost in the rules. We were happy to appreciate the beauty of Islam.
We took the bus next to Kuala Lumpur. Again, there were so few explanations of the ‘proper’ way. We guessed and watched. We met an American family there, but again we recognized that our family rules are different from another family’s rules, even within a similar cultural background.
One of our outings in Kuala Lumpur took us to the National Mosque. This was a wonderful experience for me. It was the first time I’d ever been in a mosque. The rules within the space disappeared. Strange, isn’t it? It was a calm place to gather, sit, and pray. Maritza even sat on a massage chair for tourists while we were walking around. The people working at the mosque were welcoming and helpful, willing to answer our questions and let us enjoy the beautiful space!
After Kuala Lumpur, which is a huge city, we hopped on the ‘luxury’ bus to Penang, Malaysia and found that this bus really was luxurious in comparison. The seats went way back, a lady next to us had studied in Connecticut and was amused by our questions about the ‘rules’ and answered kindly, we were given sandwiches and water, and we even had internet!
Our first ever stay in an Air Bnb was very relaxing. Our friendly host showed us our room, our fabulous lounge and the massive swimming pool. He took us to dinner and helped us acclimate to the rules of Penang. Maritza and I ventured out via Uber (a technologically impressive car service) twice. Both experiences were comfortable. However, most of our time in Penang was spent ‘de-stressing’ from the experiences with rules. Here we didn’t have any new and strange rules to figure out. We swam, worked, washed clothes, and had gentle dinners ‘out on the town’. We even took a long trishaw ride around Georgetown.
Our last stay in Malaysia was at the beach. Here we ‘let loose’. The place is full of tourists! All kinds of tourists! Each with their own rules. It was relaxing in a different way. Here, no matter what we did or wore, we fit right in. Maritza found some beach boy brothers to tease, and I swam in the healing ocean. I think it deserves a post all by itself!
We’re off to Bangkok and the train in Thailand. I’d say we’ve learned to keep rules simple! Good lesson.